Injuries, Jeff Probyn, pipe dreams and Kubla Khan
Injuries. Injuries. Injuries.
Whilst I’m sure there are many reasons why this season hasn’t panned out quite as we would have all hoped, there’s no denying that the number of injuries that have befallen Coventry players this season seems on the high side. Without the statistics to support it, it can only be an opinion, but it does seem to that we have been blighted by more than the usual numbers injuries in an ‘average’ season.
Certainly it’s something that the Board and coaches have been concerned about, although in fairness to Scott Morgan, it hasn’t been proffered by him as an excuse for Coventry’s poor performance this season.
Nor should it.
With Coventry making a big point of recruiting last summer to provide depth in every position, to blame injures as the underlying factor in Coventry’s indifferent form would be to implicitly suggest that recruitment was far less effective than it was hoped.
The Chairman originally came out and said as much back in early November via the first newsletter of season, but most recently seemed to have moved away from that line of argument to highlight injuries as the root cause in the most recent newsletter.
No one has offered an explanation as to this season’s preponderance of injuries , although it would be interesting to get a feel of how the club view them…bad lack, over/under training, fitness work inappropriate to the player, players not being open about their injuries and carrying an injury whilst playing or return to quickly after injury, the club having to play players when they’re not fit, diet and so on.
There’s must be all sorts of reasons that have combined to create the ‘perfect storm’ for injuries but I’d like to know the club’s take on it. It’s not something I see as the fault of the club, any more than it’s the fault of the players and it’s certainly not a question of trying to apportion any blame, so hopefully we will get some thoughts from Scott or Jon Sharp as to why so many players have suffered so many injuries.
Jeff Probyn has written a really interesting article in The Rugby Paper on just this subject and come up with a range of pertinent comments that seem to tie in with some of the discussions that have been had on the messageboard and elsewhere over the course of the last few weeks.
He starts be questioning why injuries as so much more frequent in the today’s game, arguing that whilst in the modern professional era players are bigger and stronger and tackling more physical, the rucking, mauling, scrummaging and lineouts were far more brutal affairs n his day, yet players were seldom substituted because of an injury. Fitness and coaching has moved on so much in the last 20 years or so that players should be far less prone to injury.
Unfortunately, in order to access The Rugby Paper you need to be a subscriber so I can’t include a link, but given it is so relevant to the discussion on Coventry’s current injury situation, I’ve highlighted the main points.
- one theory is that artificial pitches create far better grip which can be a disadvantage, particularly for forwards. Turf will give and tear, but this obviously doesn’t happen with plastic pitches so the pressure is carried into the ankle and knee joints – it makes complete sense but given that Coventry only play on 3-4 artificial pitches in the course of a season and don’t use them to train on (?), this is unlikely to be a cause of Coventry’s woes;
- rolling substitutions may unintentionally be adding to the injury problem. After the opening ‘100mph’ exchanges of the first 10 minutes, the tempo often dies down and for the next 40 minutes players settle into a more measured game. The introduction of substitutions is designed to increase the pace and tempo of the game in waves, but this may have an adverse effect on players already on the pitch at a time when they are beginning to weaken physically and be more susceptible to injury;
- Those players coming off at 50 minutes or so probably know this is part of the game plan and play at an even more intense level during the limited time they are on the pitch, again often making them more susceptible to injury
- Longer half time intervals of 10 minutes plus mean that ‘muscles start to cool down and lactic acid builds up’, so on the return to the pitch after the break, players aren’t warmed up as well as at the start of the game;
- with the increasing tendency for coaches to track the movement of players on the pitch during a game, players who might have taken a chance to gain a breather during the match might now feel this could be seen as a sign of weakness, a lack of fitness, by someone reading their stats after post match. Players who might be slow to get up after a heavy tackle or a knock from a ruck might feel suddenly feel pressurised to do so;
- Probyn points out that it seems as if the number of injuries has ‘steadily’ increased since the introduction of the 8 rolling substitutions we have now from the 3 tactical substitutions of his era.
Jeff Probyn’s comments certainly widen the discussions and add another dimension to the current debate and I’m sure that there is much in what he says. The club will have their own views on why this season seems to have been a particularly bad one on the injury front.
Maybe an article in a match day programme or an interview with the fitness coach/medical advisor, published on the official website, could give us a clue as to what they see as the causes and, more importantly, what they intend to do before the start of next season to make sure they avoid the crippling number of injuries that Cov appear to have suffered in this campaign?
I’m indebted to two readers of yesterday’s post who sent me details of a league run in the Midlands for the 2nd XVs of clubs in the region. Given I have a pretty narrow understanding of rugby outside of Coventry and National 1, it is great that there are people who willing to add more detail as and when it is needed. So many thanks to Warren Low and AgentB for their contributions…
It appears there is already a Midland Reserve League in operation which is split into 3 divisions, the top division consisting of 9 sides. This is apparently going to be increased further next season to include more teams from Leicestershire, with further discussion taking place with a view to adding teams from the Leicestershire, Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire.
The belief is that it offers a good standard of rugby across all the teams and AgentB certainly feels that a Coventry Extras side would very much be welcomed into the fold (and it would very much the team everyone wanted to beat!).
Division 1 of the Midlands Reserve League includes the following 2nd XV teams (in the order of their current position in the table):
- Old Halesonians
- Old Patesians
- Newport (Salop)
For more details click on the hyperlink below…
The only point I’m making here is that there is already a league in operation that could provide a Coventry Extras side competitive rugby against decent opposition, should the club make the decision to create an additional second XV to give most of the players in a larger squad the opportunity to play regularly when not part of the 1st team match day squad.
I’m sure this could also be used to give youngsters leaving the Academy opportunities to play as well.
Just how much additional cost is involved in running a second team is unclear, but certainly there would be a significant added expenditure. Also, I’m not sure what the minimum squad size would have to be to allow this but 2*23 match day squads, plus another dozen or so at least to allow for injuries, means you’re talking probably at least 60+. Add to this the requirement of more coaches and backroom staff, and I rather suspect the idea is just not economically viable in the current climate.
An additional pitch would also be required and even if Cov opted to go down the route of a 3 or 4 G pitch, presumably there would need to be additional changing room and related facilities at the Butts to allow for one game to be taking place whilst the teams get ready for the next – if the fixtures would allow for that. An additional build would not come cheap.
The more I think about it, the more two things become apparent:
- An Extras side should be in the club’s long term improvement plan;
- The costs and logistics of such a move make it very unlikely that it could be set up in the short to mid term, unless significant investments are made to improve both the club’s facilities, if it is to host it’s own games, and to the personnel – both players and management.
However, neither of those last two considerations, the increase in costs and personnel, should result in the idea being shelved. Despite many supporters being in favour of the creation of a second team, I do understand why Jon Sharp and the Board might well feel it is not a priority at the moment or in the near future.
Would a second team help Coventry’s push for promotion next season…that would be arguable? I would imagine the benefits of such a move wouldn’t necessarily be immediate. Yes, injured players would be able to regain fitness once over an injury whilst being closely monitored by the club’s own medical and fitness assessors, but if one of the aims is to allow younger players time to develop their game at a level more suited to them at the time, then this clearly is going to take somewhat longer.
Anyway, it’s something that is worthy of consideration and if Jon Sharp is as good as his word and he does intend to look positively at the idea of replacing the pitch with an artificial surface, the development of an Extras side becomes that much closer to becoming a reality rather than remaining a pipe dream.
Given that I believe the term ‘pipe dream’ dates back to the opium smokers of the late 1700 and early 1800s and the strange ‘fantasies’ experienced by those under the influence of the drug, I trust that Jon Sharp is no Samuel T Coleridge and the desire to see Cov with facilities able to support the running of two teams is, indeed, no vision of Xanadu…
For those wanting to know the answers to the quiz posted a couple of days ago, I will post them later today, just in case anyone wants a little extra time (and because I haven’t written them up yet…)
Hump day today…